Lessons in Financial Toughness from The Karate Kid

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Ah, The Karate Kid, that seminal 80’s classic that would absolutely never be approved for children in the 21st century. (In fact, I’m pretty sure that this fact is part of the problem with “kids these days”.) 

Luckily for us, our parents were slightly less worried about shielding us from the realities of the world. To be honest, they were probably sold on us thinking that doing household chores Miyagi-style could turn us into ultimate fighters.

I don’t know about you, but I was definitely pumping my fist every time that Ralph Macchio advanced in the Valley-Wide Tournament, pissed every time I saw the Cobra Kai Sensei’s smug-ass face, and maybe even shed a tear or two towards the end, whether I admitted it or not at the time. I’m still pretty sure that Mr. Miyagi is the smartest man of all time, and his character is so beautifully portrayed that even as children, it was hard not to empathize with him.

If you haven’t seen The Karate Kid in a while, you definitely should, and not just for nostalgia purposes. The movie is chock-full of life lessons that are applicable across the board of our lives. And when I watched it on Netflix the other day for the first time in 30 years, I actually realized that we can actually apply so much of The Karate Kid to our financial mindset and growth. 

I could write a an entire ebook about the memorable moments and important teaching aspects of this film, no joke. 

But to spare you the lecture, I’ve picked three important scenes and lessons from John G. Avildsen’s 1984 masterpiece that you can begin using today to improve your financial insight

So let’s strike hard. Strike first. No Mercy.

Young karate man confronting with his own shadow

When Daniel tries to defend Ali (with an “i”) on the beach after Johnny Lawrence breaks her radio, his heart is in the right place. Really. But the poor kid is really just asking to get his ass kicked. 

Not only did Daniel come in with no knowledge of his opponent’s skills, he also came in with no technique, grossly overestimating his own skill.

The result? A merciless beatdown, a black eye, and a mouthful of sand, not to mention the stellar first impression on his classmates before the school year even starts.

It’s fantastic that you’re taking the leap into conquering your agency’s finances, but a stubborn resolve and good intentions shouldn’t be your go-to tools. In fact, they could leave you worse for the wear. 

In order to make a difference in your financial trajectory, you need to develop the right attitude and practices regarding your numbers. These are simple, accessible steps that make a world of difference in your outcome—just like waxing on, and waxing off.

Young karate man confronting with his own shadow

After all, things aren’t always what they seem from the country club kitchen window.

When Daniel was peeking through the bay window of the country club kitchen instead of being patient outside for one goddamn seconds (ugh, teenagers), he got an eyeful of something that he completely misinterpreted. 

Was Ali dancing with Johnny from Cobra Kai? Yes, but not by her own volition. Did Johnny see Daniel in his hiding place and use the information to his own, destructive advantage? Yes. Did Daniel end up looking like an enormous idiot, yet again? Once more, with feeling: yes. And to make matters exponentially worse, did he stick around for an explanation? No.

At each part of this absolute debacle, Daniel had a chance to ask more information for clarification. Instead, he rampaged forth without assessing anything, leaving himself with both literal and figurative messes to clean up in his path.

This brings us to one of the main, overarching themes of the Karate Kid, and one of the overarching themes of life in the digital agency world.

Whether it’s your so-called rival displaying wild growth when you feel like you’re stagnating, a balance sheet that doesn’t reveal your true profits, or a situation where you feel like you can never get the upper hand, remember that not everything is as it seems.

Our best decisions are based on facts, not feelings.

(Side note: Another solid piece of advice from Karate Kid is to not trespass on private property. Just putting that one out there.)

Young karate man confronting with his own shadow

Physical strength and mental strength. Time with your eccentric, bonsai-gardening mentor, and time with friends your own age. Everything requires balance. As the great sensei Miyagi put it, “Whole life have balance, everything will be better.”

You are a digital agency owner, but most importantly, you’re a human. The computers can wait—the people who love you shouldn’t have to. If you find that life is passing you by as you sit transfixed on your screen, you need to do something about it. 

Work smarter, not harder, and condense the information that you’ve already got at your fingertips into something that you can actually use. (If you need suggestions on how to do that, feel free to reach out!) Your work-life balance, and all the people around you, will thank you for it.

So you see, for whatever age and reason you watched The Karate Kid, you were actually picking up vital information for your life—and your agency—along the way. 

And let’s not forget the most important lesson that Karate Kid has to offer, courtesy of Joe Esposito:

You’re the best, around! And nothing’s ever gonna bring you down!

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